Most students see spring break as a chance to get away from doing work, maybe apply some sunscreen or at least try to find somewhere to have fun that requires sunscreen. UW-Madison students Alex Kowalsky and Josh Lieberthal, founders of AJ&Beyond, however, are not most students.
Instead of hightailing it out of Madison this week, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) seniors are offering up their digital and social media expertise for the week, and they are doing it to help their school.
"We decided we would spend our spring break running an ad agency that focused on digital and social media because that's what we are good at," Kowalsky says. "We thought, instead of going to Florida and wasting our money, let's do something we are passionate about, and give back to the journalism school."
AJ&Beyond is the brainchild of two guys who feel they wouldn't be who they are without the journalism school and want to show what they can do while giving back to the place where they learned it. The idea is to offer up their skills in social and digital media for the week, and donate part of the money they make to the SJMC.
Both are already very involved in digital and social media and are eager to test their skills on new projects. Currently, Kowalsky is a social media intern for UW-Madison, where he helps run the @UWMadison Twitter account to launching and managing the university's Instagram account. In addition to helping dream up AJ&Beyond, Josh Lieberthal is the marketing director for the new spring student festival, Revelry.
Kowalsky calls the spring break project a "40 yard dash of Facebook, Twitter and web design. We wanted to test ourselves. We really think that over spring break we can give someone a very effective and efficient communication plan that covers everything from social media to building a website."
Robert Schwoch, the primary academic and career advisor for undergraduates in the SJMC, is thrilled by the idea.
"It's unique," Schwoch says. "I don't think I've heard of that from any departments; students using their training to give back. It's a really cool thing for them to do."
So far, the pair have been in contact with several companies, but realize that because they have to focus on graduating and their already-ambitious roles after spring break ends, working out a one-week deal is tricky. Instead of being deterred, they decided to alter their strategy and offer some pro bono services.
"One of our goals was to be charitable. So even if we aren't making money ourselves we can still be charitable and put our money to good use," Lieberthal explains. "Right now we have a project that is going to be very beneficial to the school. So we are excited to be on the forefront of that."
Their desire is to be busy over break, showcase what they've learned and be philanthropic at the same time.
"A lot of people who don't have plans go home during break," Lieberthal says. "We don't like being bored, so we would rather take advantage of being here and doing what we can."